Bud Light Preps for a Special Sunday Night as It Tries to Make Ads That Break Into Culture

New :60s target Patriots-Falcons rematch and Walking Dead premiere

Bud Light is expressly trying to generate cultural buzz with its new “Famous Among Friends” campaign, and it sees this Sunday as its next big opportunity to do so.

The AB InBev brand, and agency Wieden + Kennedy New York, have created two 60-second commercials tailored to two high-profile events that day—the Patriots-Falcons NFL game Sunday night on NBC (8:30 p.m. ET), a rematch of February’s Super Bowl; and the Season 8 premiere of The Walking Dead on AMC, also airing Sunday evening (9 p.m. ET).

For the Patriots-Falcons game, Bud Light has made “The Hero’s Return,” a spot in which a guy returning from a trip to the concessions stand to buy beers at Gillette Stadium is humorously recast in a period piece celebrating the homecoming of a colonial Patriot.

For The Walking Dead, the brand has come up with “Supplies,” a zombie apocalypse scenario in which a holed-up group of friends’ biggest fear is running out of Bud Light. Luckily, they have Frank, a buddy who shows his dependability in the clutch.

AdFreak spoke to Andy Goeler, vp of Bud Light, about the two spots (both were directed by O Positive’s Jim Jenkins). Goeler is excited about the potential of both to generate buzz, particularly following “Banquet,” a Game of Thrones-style spot that rolled out in August—whose refrain of “Dilly dilly!” has become something of a catchphrase beyond the world of advertising, said Goeler.

“Two things came out of that spot: ‘Pit of Misery’ and ‘Dilly dilly,'” he said. “I was watching College GameDay, and one of the announcers said, ‘Looks like Alabama’s going to the Pit of Misery.’ And the other announcer goes, ‘Dilly dilly!’ I almost fell off my couch.”

Goeler said he’s also been hearing anecdotes about “Dilly dilly” being used at wedding toasts and the like, which has confirmed his instinct to make ads that get people talking. “We want to continue to connect into these cultural moments,” he said.

Both new spots are very cinematic, with high production values. That’s also just about commanding attention from the viewer in a crowded space, said Goeler.

“The challenge for us, and for any marketer, is to break through,” he said. “One way of doing that is having things that are really intriguing. You’re watching the game, and you see this frame come up that says, ‘Gillette Stadium, 2017.’ You’re like, ‘What’s going on here?’ And then that epic, cinematic feel just keeps you connected to the story. We’re able to bring people into the story and connect to the content, because it’s not just an informational commercial that isn’t interesting.”

Goeler said the brand has a “pretty significant” digital and social plan to supplement the TV. This includes cutdowns of the spots, but also additional content, like a movie trailer-style teaser for “The Hero’s Return.”

Both ads lean heavily on the theme of friendship, which is Bud Light’s stake in the ground—focusing in particular on friends you can count on. Bud Light itself embodies that notion of a good friend, Goeler added.

“Good friends, if you think about it, are the friends that are dependable, they’re always there for you, you can count on them,” he said. “Bud Light, as a brand, when we talk to consumers, we hear those same kinds of things. It’s always there. You can count on it. It’s one of the benefits of being the No. 1 brand in the industry. ‘Always there’ is a big component of connecting into friendship. The key now is communicating it in a consistent way, and a fun way.”

The “Famous Among Friends” line is also meant to suggest that Bud Light is the beer that connects most closely into friendship. “As the No. 1 brand, we are the beer that is ‘Famous among friends,’ because we’ve been involved in establishing more friendships than any other beer, because of our size,” Goeler said.

Asked about the early results of the new campaign, which has also featured the spots “Between Friends” and “Vendor,” Goeler said he is encouraged.

“I am seeing some early things that are exciting. I have a handful of markets where I am starting to see a turnaround in terms of rate of sale,” he said. “It’s early in the efforts that we’re doing here, but that’s how it starts—little areas where people start to connect tighter with the brand, and start to buy more of it off the shelf, or when they’re in a bar, having a bottle or a draft of Bud Light.”